This is Part 3 of bansuri student Akshay Sachdeva’s article series documenting his bansuri learning journey. See all of Akshay’s articles right here.
My third lesson with Dr. Kerry was quite exciting! Firstly, he had an interesting virtual background cover photo of Indian musical legends, while on the Zoom video call. It felt like I was in a room of musical legends watching me! The ‘vibe’ of the lesson was entirely different.
To kick off the lesson, we started by putting on the Tanpura. Now I still don’t quite like the sound of one, and I’m actively seeking alternative background music to play the flute to! But, Dr. Kerry mentioned that I might just get used to it, eventually.
I happen to be his first student who does not like the sound of the Tanpura! How weird is that?!
But I’m not surprised by myself. Being a ‘millennial’ fond of making things ‘cool’ or just someone with a creative brain, I often wonder if it’s a lot more pleasant to play the flute with chirping birds, or the sound of the ocean playing as the “tanpura” for your practice! I’m pretty sure it is! And I’ll let you know when I discover a more exciting background music alternative.
Or who knows, I might just become accustomed to the Tanpura. Well, maybe not. Ha. I mean, the whole reason I got into wanting to play the flute is because I like the sound of the flute! And not the tanpura! So why should I have to listen to the sound of the Tanpura while playing the flute?
Oh well, the lesson continued with me playing my first Alankar with Dr. Kerry. He guided me to the notes he wanted me to play, and gave me the confidence to just start playing it without any prior experience! This is him trying to motivate me to just play!
Two key learnings from this were:
(1) Go slow on the Alankars, initially. It’s a lot better for your confidence before you start picking up speed on them; and
(2) Think of playing an Alankar as the start of you trying to make music. You’re not just practicing an Alankar robotically. You’re playing an Alankar because it should sound good, and the better you can make it sound, the more skillful you are as a bansurist!
The first alankar we played was in Kalyan scale, and was essentially:
SNDP | SNDP | SNDP | SNDP
RSND | RSND | RSND | RSND
GRSN | GRSN | GRSN | GRSN etc...up to High Sa, then back down.
Next was the related, but more difficult alankar:
SNDP | RSND | GRSN | MGRS
PMGR | DPMG | NDPM | SNDP
SNDP | NDPM | DPMG | PMGR
MGRS | GRSN | RSND | SNDP
All of course with a Teevra Ma (all holes open) as we were playing Kalyan.
Moving on, there was an unexpected surprise waiting for me at the end of this lesson. Dr. Kerry was at a good friend and tabla player’s home, and brought him into the call! Yes, his name was Ashish Bagal, and boy, was he awesome at playing the tabla. It seems like Ashish and Dr. Kerry had a history of playing music together, since their teachers have been some of the best, most amazing classical musicians in history. No kidding.
Ashish explained the concept of Teental to me, which is basically a rhythmic cycle comprised of four sets of ‘4’s’, which is easy to understand for beginner musical minds like me!
Listening to Ashish play the Tabla was very meaningful. He gave a human face and personality to all the background music! It was a real joy to meet him, and hear him explain the fundamentals of music. Thanks Ashish!
Lastly, Dr. Kerry & I had a chat about where it is I want to be heading with all of this. And that question has triggered off a thought process in me that’s a work in progress. It continues from the conversation we had about musical vision, and why I’m learning to play the bansuri in the first place.
A few haphazard thoughts came to mind, like producing some sort of fusion music, a blend of the east and west, with bansuri as the leading instrument, along with guitar, tabla or other musical instruments from different cultures and countries coming together to make magic happen. Wouldn’t that be awesome!
Another thought was to play the bansuri at a flamenco event, possibly replacing the guitar with the bansuri to make women dance to an upbeat, energy filled bansuri melody. That would be a dream come true!
Ah, all a dream right now. Still need to build a base in Hindustani music for now, so it eventually becomes possible to do more exciting stuff that matches my musical vision!
A huge thanks once again to both Dr. Kerry and Ashish for giving me their time, and the musical wisdom in this incredibly amazing online lesson. I’ll never forget how awesome it was! I shall keep practicing and improving, bit by bit, day by day!
This was Part 3 of bansuri student Akshay Sachdeva’s article series documenting his bansuri learning journey.
See all of Akshay’s articles right here.
Akshay is a new flutist, and loves the sound of the Bansuri. He's learning the Bansuri to create magical, soulful melodies that blend eastern and western music, and make him a versatile flute player, for the love of Lord Krishna. He finds the flute to be a very meditative, spiritually fulfilling instrument. Reach out to him and talk to him about anything!